EWTN Catholic Q&A
The Soul vs Personality
Question from J.A. on 01-19-2008:

Can you explain where one's personality ends and the soul begins? Personality seems to define who we are to others, but so many things can alter our personality such as mental illness, injury, disease, substance abuse, etc.

Is personality purely biological, and our soul's job is to try and control the instinctual will of the body? Can sin be considered the willful failure of the soul to do so?

I have heard of experiments where researchers have supposedly been able to reproduce "religious experiences" by stimulating different parts of the brain. This has made me wonder what part of my consciousness of "self" is purely biological and what part is my soul. Can you recommend any books that deal with this subject?

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 01-24-2008:

Dear J.A.

The reason why human beings can think and act is because they have souls. Sometimes, however, the body or the brain is so seriously affected that human being, the person, has little or no control. The Church takes the view that man is single being composed of body and soul. Thus what happened in the body affects the soul and what affects the soul affects the body. This is a philosophical view of man which does not depend upon measurement or experiments. The philosophy and the modern sciences study man differently. Look up a book on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas for his view on the body soul relationship in man. Any other suggestions from out there?

Dr. Geraghty

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